Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shillong Chamber Choir: The Indian Train Song

About a week or two ago, I got a chance to watch and listen to the Shillong Chamber Choir, live. A pre-Christmas celebration was being held on Chowpatty Beach and we were invited. Naturally, we attended it. We have always liked the Shillong Chamber Choir and I’m a big sucker for anything North-East. This is a recording of the Indian Train song. I started recording it the moment Neil Nongkynrih, the music director, said the train song is dedicated to Mamata Banerjee (the CM of West Bengal). Just like the Incredible India! ad, this song is supposed to convey what all one experiences while on a train journey. Except for the smells one encounters through train travel, I think almost all the common sounds have found a place in his composition.

Before you go on to watch the video (apologies for the poor audio), here are some of the words you will hear being repeated through the song, along with the literal translation. One thing to keep in mind is this is a group from the North-East, Hindi is not their mother tongue and English is mostly their second language. Not only do their sing Hindi songs like pros, they have even sung some Punjabi lines in this train song...

Chai, chai: Tea, tea
Samosa: A stuffed, deep fried snack
Channa, channa: Spiced up roasted/boiled chickpeas
Mishti doi: Sweet curd (a lip-smacking dessert from Orissa, West Bengal and Bangladesh. For the record, yogurt is nothing like mishti doi)
English words:
Coffee, coffee
Cold drink
Bread omelette
Veg cutlet

I hope I haven’t missed anything. Feel free to leave a comment if you find that I have left some out. The basic gist of the Punjabi verses is, “There are some girls in the train with us. They have lipstick and powder on their face... but I can see a beard under all of that makeup!” (LOL!)

What train journey is complete without a eunuch bumming you for some change? There is the manly, nasal chant, “Aye! Chuttaa de re!” (Give some change) and “Sirf dus rupiya!” (only ten rupees). And what follows is an argument between the eunuchs and passengers who are not willing to part with small change also.
My video recording is not very clear but it ends with passengers coughing and probably farting because the girls start holding their nose and waving their hands in the air disapprovingly.

I’ll stop my commentary now – enjoy the song and their superb singing because they did what the rest of the choirs couldn’t do on this windy day on the beach – sing beautifully and clearly. And I have to add that the men in this team are awesome singers. I was impressed with the shortest guy of them all (extreme right) – sings bass like a boss!

I just found a better video of this song, albeit in a different setting (a noisy football stadium), has been recorded and uploaded by WildFilmsIndia on YouTube.

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